FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Wolves, Oil, Bureaucrats and Judges

Recently we heard how courts in Louisiana reversed the Obama administration’s moratorium on deep water oil drilling. Some suggest that the judge’s decision was not completely unbiased due to his personal investments in oil company stock. And investigation of the federal judges in this region shows that the majority of them have investments in oil companies.

This calls into question whether any judge in the region can render a fair judgment regarding whether public values that may be destroyed by risky oil development will be given fair consideration when judges deciding these cases have a financial incentive to promote oil development.

Just as the financial interests of the judges in the Gulf Coast region may distort and bias their ability to make fair judicial decisions regarding issues surrounding the oil industry, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks agency has a similar financial conflict of interest when it comes to management of predators. A conflict that the department does not publicly disclose.

However, all state wildlife agencies depend on license fees to fund their bureaucracy. If there is a decline in huntable game, or even the perception of less game that reduces the sale of licenses, this will have a direct negative financial effect on the agency.

In addition, since predators sometime attack livestock, there is also a strong incentive to kill predators to appease the ranching community—a community that controls a lot of the huntable terrain in Montana, and a group that the MDFWP does not want to antagonize, least they make less land available to hunters.

Though MDFWP is one of the most progressive agencies in the West, it still can’t buck a system that rewards killing predators. So it’s not surprising that MDFWP Commission approved expansion of Montana’s wolf killing quota from 75 to 186 animals. The department has a strong financial incentive to reduce the wolf population in Montana because wolves are perceived as a threat to hunting and the ranching industry.

But is it ethical to allow an agency and/or a business whose direct financial well-being is at stake to make public policy? In California voters were persuaded that Fish and Game agencies could not scientifically manage cougars, and that hunting created more problems than it eliminated. Voters took authority for hunting away from the agency by banning cougar hunting.

Since the ban on hunting in 1991, cougar populations have grown significantly. But surprising to some, California now has far fewer cougar incidents than other western states that have fewer cougars, fewer people, but permit cougar hunting. The only control that California exerts on cougar populations is the strategic removal of individual cougar that are deemed a safety threat to humans.

The reason for these unexpected results has to do with the social ecology of large predators. Killing of large predators like cougars (wolves) can skew populations towards younger animals. Younger animals wander more widely where they are more likely to encounter humans, and they are less experienced hunters. As a consequence they are far more likely to attack livestock, and in the case of cougars, even attack people rarely.

Hunting wolves has many of the same consequences. Wolf populations with a high percentage of younger adults that are less experienced hunters are more likely to attack livestock. Hunting of wolves can also contribute to smaller packs that have fewer adults to help raise pups—such packs are also more likely to attack easy prey like livestock.

Smaller packs often kill as many elk and deer as larger packs because they are unable to consume an entire elk in one feeding, leaving the carcass behind for scavengers to consume, thus forcing them to locate and kill another elk or deer.

Managing predators to reduce their impacts upon ungulates like elk and deer also guarantees that predators do not have the full ecological benefits that result from top-down predation. Everything from reducing herbivory effects on vegetation to changing the age structure of elk and other prey to increases in carrion for scavengers are among the many benefits associated with predators.

Though I can understand how difficult it would be for the commission to do anything else other than authorize more predator killing given the hostility that many hunters have to predators, like the judges deciding the fate of the Gulf of Mexico’s natural communities that may be destroyed by oil spills, it behooves us to question whether anyone with a direct financial interest in the outcome of a decision should be permitted to determine public policy.

Indeed, the best management of predators is exactly what California has done with cougars—eliminate all hunting of predators, except for those which pose a direct threat to human life and/or livestock. With regards to livestock we should require changes in animal husbandry practices to reduce conflicts such as immediate removal of carrion, use of guard animals, among other practices. Then and only then the only animals that should be killed are those that are habituated livestock killers.

GEORGE WUERTHNER is an ecologist, and former Montana hunting guide.

 

 

WORDS THAT STICK

?

 

More articles by:

George Wuerthner has published 36 books including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy. He serves on the board of the Western Watersheds Project.

August 16, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
“Don’t Be Stupid, Be a Smarty”: Why Anti-Authoritarian Doctors Are So Rare
W. T. Whitney
New Facebook Alliance Endangers Access to News about Latin America
Sam Husseini
The Trump-Media Logrolling
Ramzy Baroud
Mission Accomplished: Why Solidarity Boats to Gaza Succeed Despite Failing to Break the Siege
Larry Atkins
Why Parkland Students, Not Trump, Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize
William Hartung
Donald Trump, Gunrunner for Hire
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Morality Tales in US Public Life?
Yves Engler
Will Trudeau Stand Up to Mohammad bin Salman?
Vijay Prashad
Samir Amin: Death of a Marxist
Binoy Kampmark
Boris Johnson and the Exploding Burka
Eric Toussaint
Nicaragua: The Evolution of the Government of President Daniel Ortega Since 2007 
Adolf Alzuphar
Days of Sagebrush, Nights of Jasmine in LA
Robert J. Burrowes
A Last Ditch Strategy to Fight for Human Survival
August 15, 2018
Jason Hirthler
Russiagate and the Men with Glass Eyes
Paul Street
Omarosa’s Book Tour vs. Forty More Murdered Yemeni Children
Charles Pierson
Is Bankruptcy in Your Future?
George Ochenski
The Absolute Futility of ‘Global Dominance’ in the 21st Century
Gary Olson
Are We Governed by Secondary Psychopaths
Fred Guerin
On News, Fake News and Donald Trump
Arshad Khan
A Rip Van Winkle President Sleeps as Proof of Man’s Hand in Climate Change Multiplies and Disasters Strike
P. Sainath
The Unsung Heroism of Hausabai
Georgina Downs
Landmark Glyphosate Cancer Ruling Sets a Precedent for All Those Affected by Crop Poisons
Rev. William Alberts
United We Kneel, Divided We Stand
Chris Gilbert
How to Reactivate Chavismo
Kim C. Domenico
A Coffeehouse Hallucination: The Anti-American Dream Dream
August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail